Campaigners call for women to be restored to Lectionary

 American Catholics are organising an appeal to the Vatican and North American bishops this month to have female figures from the New Testament such as Mary of Magdala re-included in lectionary texts from which they have been deleted. Organisers of the appeal are also inviting female biblical scholars to the International Synod on the Word, to be held in Rome in October, according to a media release by the Future Church group. At over 250 international celebrations of the July 22 Feast of St Mary of Magdala, special prayer services will make visible biblical women leaders whose stories have been omitted or downgraded in lectionary texts. The group cites a 1996 analysis by Sr Ruth Fox OSB which found a disproportionate number of passages about women had been deleted from the lectionary, a book of biblical passages carefully chosen for church proclamation. Celebrations will occur in Canada, Great Britain and Australia, the organisers say. They will engage between 30 and 300 people in parishes, convents, Catholic schools, Protestant churches, private homes and small faith communities. "Unfortunately, for centuries, Mary of Magdala's leadership and that of many other biblical women, has been minimized or excised from the official lectionary used in both Catholic and Protestant churches," said Sr Christine Schenk, FutureChurch Executive Director. "For example, even though all four gospels name Mary of Magdala as the first witness to the Resurrection, Jesus' commission asking her to proclaim it to the male disciples is never read on Sunday, yet we hear about doubting Thomas every single year." "And Phoebe, an important leader and deacon at the Church of Cenchrae, is completely excised from the lectionary text of Paul's letter to the Romans, as are Lois and Eunice from the letter to Timothy. We want Church officials to correct that," said FutureChurch board member, Barbara Litrell. Spearheaded by the Cleveland-based FutureChurch, Catholics are also asking synod leaders to devote more pastoral attention to Jesus and St. Paul's inclusive practice and expand preaching opportunities for qualified women. Mary of Magdala participants will join over 7000 others who have already sent paper and electronic postcards containing the four synod requests to church leaders and are asked to recruit family, friends and fellow church goers to do the same. A list of 23 female biblical scholars who are willing to be consultants has been compiled and is being submitted to synod leaders. Over the summer campaign activists are seeking personal meetings with synod Bishop delegates in the US and Canada to elicit their support. Sr Christine, who will be in Rome while the synod is in process, said: "The Church has gotten very restrictive about allowing lay people to preach, even those with degrees in scripture and homiletics," said Schenk. "This is a great loss to the believing community." "We think it's important for women and men to learn the contemporary scholarship about women leaders in the early Church and we are especially happy to have so many celebrations in which women can preside and preach at worship," said Litrell. For a list of 2008 celebration sites see Source: FutureChurch

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